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Remembering Tony Nancy - 'The Loner'

I read about Tony Nancy while delivering HOT ROD Magazine on my paper round-but I never actually encountered him until 1964 at the British Drag Festival. My dad, who was not in the least interested, had taken me and my school mates to see the drag races.

Tony was part of the 1964 U.S. Drag Team. Luck was not on his side, however, and over the course of six events Nancy's second car, the famous Plymouth-powered 22 Jr., lost control and was wrecked after hitting the crash barriers at Blackbushe. Unperturbed, or so it appeared, Nancy returned to Blackbushe the following year, as did me and my schools mates and a reluctant dad. Heck we were only 15. At that time Nancy was running around 191 mph with ETs of around 8.34 seconds. I was impressed. One of the Sunday newspapers, The People, I think, published a colour cutaway of Nancy's 22 Jr. explaining all the technical details. I still have a copy. I guess I was impressed.

Fast forward a quarter century and I'm regularly visiting the U.S. before moving full time and have become friends with Pete Chapouris then the Pete of Pete and Jake's and now head honcho at SO-CAL Speed Shop. One of the things Pete did for me was take me on a tour of all the cool rod shops. On the list - Tony Nancy's upholstery shop in Sherman Oaks, California. Small place, not a very tall guy but a big man.

Pete who was a fan and fast friend of Tony's, has many a tale to tell. Like the time he walked into Tony's shop and he was just cursing out somebody on the phone and telling him to come pick his shit up before it was thrown in the street. When he hung up Pete said, "Who was that?" Nancy replied, "Oh the dickhead that owns this Ferrari." That was Tony.

Pete also remembers a story that Tony told when he was racing the 29 Jr. He had no motor but somebody told him to talk to Tommy Sparks who had one. So they talked and the motor went into Nancy's car and they raced it for a year. They never talked much but when they finally did they realised that both thought that they didn't like each other because they hadn't said much. That was Tony.

To summarise his demeanour, Pete remembers having lunch and asking him how his girlfriend was and Nancy said, "Oh, I had to get rid of her. She had a teenage kid. Kids are a pain the ass. And, the kid had a dog and dogs are a pain in the ass so I sent 'em down the road. I have a hard time with all that. I don't know what's the matter with me." To which Pete replied, "Take a look at your shirt." Nancy looked down. Embroidered there were the words, "Tony The Loner." That was Tony.

The final job we did with Tony was when SO-CAL restored the Jim Crooke/JimGreen Assassin AA /Fuel dragster and Tony did the upholstery just as he had the original. The stitching was a little shaky but it was every inch a Nancy job. The man was a professional to the end. Tony passed away this month after a lengthy illness, Pete and I are proud to have known him.

By Tony Thacker

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